Wall Street Journal: New Real-Estate Search Tool Sparks Backlash

The sale of prospective buyers’ personal information by online property-search sites such as StreetEasy.com is triggering industry opposition

By JOSH BARBANEL

Brokers in Manhattan’s highflying real-estate market, where the average price of a condominium is now more than $2 million, are challenging what has become a standard practice in the real-estate industry across the U.S.: The sale of prospective buyers’ personal information by online property-search sites.

The backlash follows the introduction last week of a new feature on Streeteasy.com, a search site developed for the New York market that is now owned by Zillow Group Inc. StreetEasy has the largest share of the listing business in New York City—more than all broker-industry sites combined, according to managers at several brokerage firms.

The new tool on the website directs messages from potential buyers to brokers who pay a fee to StreetEasy rather than to the broker who listed the property, as it has in the past...

Since the introduction of the new program, called Premier Agent, some brokerage firms said they were considering withholding their listings, and have barred agents from using company funds to pay for it.

The Real Estate Board of New York filed a complaint with New York on Wednesday saying the new program is misleading and violates rules designed to prevent consumer confusion...

Read the full story

Read the message to REBNY members from President John Banks